AN ADVOCATE FOR OPPORTUNITY
THIS MONTH WE TALK WITH JOHN FOLSE, CEC, AAC, HBOT, WHO SERVED AS ACF NATIONAL PRESIDENT FROM 1994 TO 1995. HE IS CEO/
OWNER/EXECUTIVE CHEF OF CHEF JOHN FOLSE & COMPANY, GONZALES, LA.
What left a lasting impression from your
term as president?
My term as president of the American
Culinary Federation was without a doubt the
highlight of my culinary career. Realizing
that ACF was home to the largest organi-
zation of professional chefs and cooks in
the country, there was no question that
we should claim the title “Authority on
Food in America.” I felt it was our right
and our role, a matter of pride and profes-
sionalism, and in my mind, would entice
our members to seek better education and
certification to justify the claim.
Is there a program that you are most
proud of implementing?
Before my presidency, I served as Central
Region vice president. Realizing the need
for membership growth, I developed
the program “ 31 in 91.” This nationwide
campaign was designed to grow member-
ship from approximately 18,000 members
to 31,000 members by the 1992 convention.
The campaign was a huge success, even
though we fell a little short of our goal.
Still, I am proud to say that we had almost
30,000 members in the organization by that
summer. That was exceptional growth
in one year.
How is foodservice different today?
When I was president our skill set focused
on basic culinary skills, whereas today it
is a world of technology and food science.
Equipment 20 years ago was represented
by double-stacked convection ovens and
six-burner ranges. Now I look at my new
Viking kitchen at Restaurant R’evolution
in New Orleans and am amazed at the
technical phenomena of today’s kitchen,
which not only requires a basic skill
set, but also a well-trained, astute and
What contribution can ACF make to
the bigger foodservice picture?
Food and beverage operations, regardless
of scope, size and focus, must ultimately
be manned by high-quality, well-trained
culinarians. It is the foundation necessary
for safe, nutritious and flavorful foods.
Through education programs, networking
opportunities, educational conferences
and measurement of chefs through
certification and apprenticeship, ACF
ensures a well-trained, professional staff
for the foodservice industry.
Where are the opportunities for young
people in the profession?
When I entered the kitchen in 1970,
there were few choices. It was breakfast,
lunch or dinner at a rural cafe, family-
owned restaurant, local hotel chain or
country club. Today, the opportunities
range from one end of the spectrum to
the other, including health-care feeding,
business and industry, education, food
science and culinology, with tremendous
opportunities for both men and women
of every ethnic background wishing to
succeed in the industry.
Why did you decide to run for president?
After having served as public relations/
marketing chairman under President
Jack Braun, CEC, AAC, HOF, and being
named national Chef of the Year in 1990,
I was asked to run for Central Region vice
president. Having represented the entire
Central Region of the United States, I
came to better understand the needs of
the chef community and the opportunities
that were sorely lacking in continuing
education, networking and competition
among chefs at the local level.
What gave you the most satisfaction?
Nothing satisfied me more than networking with our members, listening to
the plight of chefs from every walk of
life, and hearing first-hand the challenges
that women and minorities were facing
in the organization. I felt that I could
address these issues clearly, coming
from a humble background. I grew up in
a Cajun community in the swamplands
of Louisiana, where opportunities were
slim. At the end of my term, my greatest
satisfaction was the unbelievable associations that I made with chefs nationally
and internationally that are still firmly in
place 20 years later.
At the end of the day, what did being
president mean to you?
It made me realize that every man and
woman within an organization must feel
included in the decision-making process
and understand that his or her voice
is valuable within the group. I came to
understand that organizations such as ACF
must provide educational and networking
opportunities for all cooks and chefs who
wish to be a part of the whole. Whether
the best breakfast cook at Waffle House, a
member of ACF Culinary Team USA or
striving to become one of the elite certified
master chefs, ACF has in its heart a place
for everyone, despite gender or race.